Justin shines with Social skills
Justin Timberlake is already getting Oscar buzz for his turn in The Social Network. Paul Byrne talks to the reluctant superstar
David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) is the man behind the camera, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) is the man with the pen, the crisp direction and acerbic dialogue sparking wonderful performances, not least from its three main leads.
Eisenberg plays the face of Facebook, the awkward, borderline-antisocial Mark Zuckerberg (as much Woody Allen in the movie as he is Bill Gates); Andrew Garfield is nice guy Eduardo Saverin, who bankrolls the project; Timberlake, meanwhile, plays the charming, disarming and not-altogether trustworthy Sean Parker, the fallen founder of Napster, who arrived on the scene just as Facebook was looking on-track to becoming a billion-dollar industry.
So, I like the guy and I loved the film. He seems to know what he's about. And so does the media. Everyone knows he dated Britney Spears just as they were both launching their careers -- he in US boyband N'Sync and she as a solo artist. Since they broke up in 2002, Timberlake has been linked to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He was involved with Cameron Diaz for four years before they split up in early 2007. Soon afterwards, he was linked to actress Jessica Biel, who he is rumoured to be engaged to. Or maybe he's not, as the pair seem to have an on-off relationship, at least according to the media. Not that Justin's going to tell me today. He has a strict policy of not commenting on his relationships. And just in case I'm in any doubt, his publicist makes it clear that there are to be no personal questions. No questions about downloading illegally. And no questions about music.
Still, Justin Randall Timberlake threw me a little when he fumbled and dropped my first question.
Unlike his co-stars, Timberlake had access to his subject, approaching Sean Parker in a nightclub before the cameras started rolling. Parker reportedly said he couldn't be of any help, as the portrayal Aaron Sorkin had written "really isn't me" . . .
"That's not exactly true," interjects Timberlake. "That's not exactly true. Because he had read the script, I did ask him what he thought of the script. And he commented that he wasn't legally allowed to talk about the story. That was the extent of our conversation. After sort of being cast in the part and going through the rehearsal process I didn't think it was necessary, to speak to anyone. Other than David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin about the story."
Of course, if Sean Parker had discussed his role in the Facebook saga (leaving in 2005 after a cocaine-related arrest), and it were made public, he might have been in breach of his termination contract.
Still, time to squeeze in some questions unrelated to Timberlake's big-screen breakthrough. Such as, how come the man who brought sexy back -- the man who gave us N'Sync, Justified, FutureSex/LoveSounds hasn't had a record out in four years?
Has acting taken something of a stranglehold on his vocal chords?
"I just see it all as the same thing," answers Timberlake, somewhat enigmatically. "Making music, or making movies, it's all just creating."
Right. Does he dare to think about the growing Oscar buzz? Be a nice addition, alongside the six Grammys and the two Emmys.
"I dare not think about such things, no," he says with a smile. "It's flattering, but it's far too early to be putting that thought swirling around in my head. Jesse and Andrew deserve one long before I would."
"Ah, man, it's one of the greatest places on earth, it really is," he answers, his excitement appearing genuine. "We played a couple of nights at the track there, outside. I remember that it rained all day the first day, and then 45 minutes before we were going onstage, the sun came out. Which is a rarity for Ireland, from what I understand."
We've written ballads about that day . . .
"Yeah, yeah [laughs]. It was one of the more magical sunset concert performances that I've put on.
"The second day should have been a rain-out. I don't know why we had the balls to go onstage, with all that electronic equipment, with all that rain. But the first day was extremely memorable, for all the right reasons."